Certainly the best Iron Man movie and the best Marvel movie – and arguably better even than Joss Whedon’s impressive, unprecedented, ensemble superhero blockbuster Avengers – writer/director Shane Black knocked it out of the park with this stunning opening Phase 2 chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Cementing the fact that “bigger” seldom guarantees “better” in terms of sequels, Black reminds the Studios of the importance of getting a good, dedicated filmmaker on board; somebody who actually cares about character development; emotional investment and delivering what audiences really want in terms of action with impact.
Iron Man 3 hits UK shores with a Region Free Blu-ray a couple of weeks ahead of our American counterparts, with an expectedly stunning 1080p High Definition video presentation in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1 widescreen. Although – as you would only expect from a Shane Black flick – steeped in shadows and night-set sequences, the transfer handles them expertly, without ever dipping into crush territory, and with no signs of aberrant noise. Detail is excellent, with superior skin textures and fine object observation, and impressive colour reproduction. Effects sequences are seamlessly blended in, even with the rather extreme Extremis powers, and overall it is another reference-standard presentation. Perhaps it’s easy to take it for granted after the previous features have proven essentially benchmark releases on the format, but it’s still something of a relief that Iron Man 3 doesn’t buck the trend.
Of course this is the 3D release, which boasts not only the immaculate 2D video presentation, that would easily earn a 9 or even 10/10, but also the far more suspect 3D alternative. Suspicions are always raised when a film isn’t natively shot in 3D, and has some kind of 3D post-conversion; experience tells us as much, but some expensive conversions do reasonable jobs, with the likes of Avengers itself proving to be fairly immersive despite being converted. Still, Avengers was not without issues, and one of its biggest issues – aside from not being natively shot in 3D – is the same one which is even more prevalent on Iron Man 3: they both feature numerous dark sequences. As you may have guessed from the fact that most 3D films have to have their contrast boosted specifically to overcome this kind of problem, darker sequences are never handled all that well by the format, and Iron Man 3 is no exception, with many of the night-set sequences boasting murky shots and basically next to no dimensionality. Effects shots spark up interest within these moments – whether Extremis powers or Tony’s suit – but, for the most part, there’s little difference between the 3D and 2D here, other than it’s even darker.